Local pastor heading for Sultinate of Oman to head interfaith center

Last year, I talked to the Rev. Doug Leonard, pastor of the Reformed Church of Cortlandtown, about a trip he was about to take to the Beijing Olympics.

He was going with Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York City, a leading voice on religious freedom issues, to see how China was addressing the myriad religious needs of the Olympic athletes.

Leonard told me that the trip was a great opportunity for him because — beside the obvious reasons — he had a tremendous and growing interesting in interfaith relations.

tjndc5-5b4o3jlkb0j12nm1enb6_layoutHe was quite proud of the fact that  his denomination, the Reformed Church in America, is a descendant of the Dutch Reformed Church, which has a long history of promoting interfaith tolerance.

A few months after the Olympics, Leonard was leaving for the Sultinate of Oman to take part in a conference with Muslims.

Now he’s going back — to stay (at least for a while).

Sunday will be Leonard’s last day at the Reformed Church of Cortlandtown. The next day he leaves for Oman to become director of the Al Amana Centre, an interfaith center in Muscat that was started by the Reformed Church in America

I understand that he will be back briefly late next month. He’ll be honored by the Peekskill Area Pastors Association, of which he is immediate a past president.

I hope to get a chance to talk with him about his unusual new job.

‘Open doors of friendship’

Interfaith cooperation begins at the local level, as they say.

The Rev. Doug. Leonard, pastor of the Reformed Church of Cortlandtown, recently visited the Islamic Community Center of Mohegan Lake with a gift.

He brought a framed watercolor from Oman, where Leonard’s denomination, the Reformed Church in America, is very involved in Christian-Muslim relations. Leonard visited there last summer.

He plaque showcases these words: “There will always be an open door of friendship and love between the members of the Reformed Church of Cortlandtown and the members of the Islamic Community Center of Mohegan Lake.”

According to a release: “The framed piece also contains verses from the Christian and Muslim scriptures, emphasizing the two principles of the love of God and love of neighbor, shared between the two faith-traditions. Reverend Leonard, who has long been involved in interfaith dialogue throughout the Westchester and greater New York area, is continuing the work outlined in the document A Common Word between Us and You, published by 138 Islamic scholars under the leadership of Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan in late 2007.”

During a cold weekend, a 10-foot cross of ice is blessed

A Ukrainian Orthodox parish and a Protestant parish came together yesterday in Montrose to bless a 10-foot cross made of ice.

It’s been a good winter for this sort of thing.

Apparently, carving crosses from ice taken from local rivers and lakes is an old Ukrainian tradition.

“The cross of ice will be a sign of God’s sanctification of all created things, including the gift of water, which is necessary for life. It will also serve as a witness to the unity that is happening among Christians at the local level,” said Metropolitan Michael, hierarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in all of North America and all of South America.

Metropolitan Michael’s local parish, Descent of the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Orthodox Parish, is currently worshiping at the Reformed Church of Cortlandtown. So the two parishes worked on the project together.

That’s Rev. Doug Leonard, pastor of the Reformed Church, on the left, and Metropolitan Michael is second from the right…